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2018/19 Season News

John Ritchie

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John Ritchie

PostedJune 2, 2018

It was with very great sadness that Cowdenbeath FC learned today of the death of the club’s former goalkeeper John Ritchie at the age of 70. John truly was one of football’s great enthusiasts and was still coaching earlier this year before the onset of illness. Deepest sympathy and sincere condolences go out to John’s partner Dianne who is so very well known to us all at Central Park. Our thoughts and sympathy are with Dianne and of course all of John’s family at this saddest of times – sentiments that we know will be shared by all the supporters of Cowdenbeath FC.

Born in 1947, John Ritchie came from Dundonald. He was playing for Dundonald Boys Club at the age of 14 as a goalkeeper. He also played for Auchterderran School as a centre forward. He represented Fife Schools as a centre forward along with two Auchterderran classmates Willie Johnston at inside left and Tommy Hutchinson on the left wing. After a few junior games for St Andrew's United, Archie Robertson signed him for Cowdenbeath in 1964 at the age of just 17. John went right into the first team where he earned 5 a week plus 7 10/- a week as an apprentice with the coal board. John played in 88 consecutive League games for Cowden and proved to be an accomplished 'keeper. He played with such fine Cowden players as Bobby Wilson, Andy Rolland, Jimmy Burns, Henry Mowbray, Andy Kinnell and Andy Matthew. At the start of season 1967/68, there was a surprise in store for Cowden fans when the 6 foot Ritchie was tried at centre-forward in the pre-season games, scoring in 2 out of 3 games and then playing there in the opening League Cup v Queen’s Park. In November 1967, John went on loan to Brechin City. A month later, a small fee changed hands and the move to Glebe Park became permanent.

John displayed excellent form over the next 3 years and earned a transfer south to Bradford City in the summer of 1971. He played 72 games for City in a 3 season spell south of the Border. Then, after a brief spell on loan at Montrose, Jim McLean signed him for Dundee United where he understudied Hamish McAlpine. Next he went back to Brechin. John was a first class custodian for the ever improving Brechin until early in season 1980/81 when he suffered a knee injury which virtually ended his career after 297 league appearances with Brechin (he had played 99 league games for Cowden). John was then given a place on the Glebe Park coaching staff.

Away from the game, he suffered hardship as a striking miner at Seafield Colliery during the year long Miners’ strike. In 1987, he stepped up to become Brechin manager and enjoyed a highly successful spell in charge winning promotion to the 1st Division twice. Pink and Dick Campbell, Dick Baillie and Raymie Allan from Cowdenbeath were just some of those who worked with John at Brechin. John gave up his post at Glebe Park in summer 1993 to take up a full time post as an SFA Football Development Coach in Edinburgh with Hibs. He later was Head of Youth at Dunfermline for 6 years. John then ran his own John Ritchie Coaching business plus did some coaching at Thornton Hibs when they reached the Scottish Junior Cup semi final. He also became goalkeeping coach to the Scotland International Youth Teams, the U17 and U19 male and female squads and staff coach with the SFA delivering the goalkeeping licence diploma.

JR Coaching was involved in coaching kids – John was the most qualified coach in Scotland and held all the licenses. He also was the assessor in delivering the Managed Apprentice programmer to young Full Time players for the Fife clubs (including Cowdenbeath) and Alloa – part of the Skills Development Scotland programmer leading to an SVQ in Sporting Excellence. He also coached the Spartans Ladies team.

For John, football was more than just a game. Coaching for him was a passion and the next best thing to playing. He loved working with young players, to help them live their dream. This season John was working still as a goalkeeping coach at Arbroath – along with his long-time friends and colleagues Dick and Ian Campbell and John Young – 54 years on since he played his first senior game for Cowdenbeath FC.

John never forgot the words of his gaffer Jock Clark back in the Pit when he joined Cowdenbeath. He said to John, ‘Aye laddie, you’re gaun tae be a pro football player. Play as long as you can as it will be the time of your life wi yer pals’. John certainly took that advice and was a true football man all his days. JR will be much missed by all those who knew him.

(Photo: Cowdenbeath FC 1966 – Archie Robertson gives a tactics talk to his players at Central Park – Left to right: Jimmy Burns, Archie Robertson, Andy Rolland, Andy Kinnell, Tom Dawson and John Ritchie)

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